It’s clear what UCLA has to work on in its final three games before conference play begins.
The 14th-ranked Bruins look to improve on their perimeter shooting on Saturday when they continue their four-game homestand against Mercer.
UCLA (7-2) is in the bottom half of the Pac-10 in 3-point shooting, and is starting to see opponents employ a lot of zone defenses. That was the case Wednesday as winless Loyola Marymount persistently stayed in a 2-3 zone throughout most of the contest.
The Bruins made 11 3-pointers out of 33 attempts in the 75-44 win, but know that won’t be enough against better competition. Michael Roll went 4-for-5 from beyond the arc for all of his 12 points.
“We had pretty good ball movement around the zone,” Roll said. “A 2-3 zone leaves a lot of open spots near the top. We’re a good shooting team. We just weren’t tonight.”
UCLA is shooting 31.3 percent (26-of-83) on 3-pointers in four games in December. Leading scorer Darren Collison, who is shooting 53.8 percent (14-of-26) from the arc for the season, believes the Bruins will turn it around.
“There’s going to be games where we’re not hitting,” Collison said. “We’re looking always to shoot as long as we’re continuing to be aggressive.”
The Bruins extended their non-conference home winning streak against unranked teams to 33 games since a 75-60 loss to Notre Dame on Feb. 28, 2004. They begin Pac-10 play on Jan. 2 at Oregon State.
UCLA is also the worst foul shooting team in the conference at 59.5 percent, including 52.5 percent (32-of-61) in its last four games.
Mercer, which hails from the Atlantic Sun Conference, has proven it can play against major-conference opponents this year. The Bears posted road wins over Alabama and Auburn during a 3-0 start before losing at home in overtime to Georgia Tech.
This game is part of a stretch of seven straight road games for Mercer, which hasn’t played that many in a row on the road since the 1964-65 campaign. The Bears got off to a bad start in the opener of that stretch, though, with a 104-74 loss at Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
James Florence scored 27 points to lead Mercer, which yielded a season high in points in what also was its worst loss of the season.
“They were quicker and faster than we were tonight,” Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said. “Everyone has to play well for us to be successful.”
This game is a homecoming for Mercer reserve Mark Hall, a sophomore guard from Los Angeles. Hall scored a season-high 14 points in Wednesday’s loss.
The Bruins and Bears are meeting for the first time.